God Concept Essay

The concept of God, or any god, is one that has definite boundaries. There are
many questions that arise concerning the nature of God, or even whether or not
there really is one. The most common god in today’s society is “God”,
the “Supreme Being” worshipped by Muslims as “Allah,” by
Jews as “Yahweh,” and by popular Christianity simply as
“God.” Generally, He is thought to be in the image of humans, and in
most cases of worshipping this particular deity, He is omnipotent, omniscient,
and omnipresent. These beliefs, although they may be canon, are not the beliefs
of every person that follows this god. There are many different ways to see and
worship Him whom we will refer to simply as “God.” There are varied
points of view on God expressed in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, the book of Exodus
in the Hebrew Bible, and St. Augustine’s Confessions. Through these works, one
may see several viewpoints on the same deity, prompting the question, “Who
is God?” There is no definite answer to this query. Instead, as we will
see, there are many definitions and assumptions that describe God, giving us a
complicated and sometimes contradicting view of God. In Mama Day, a novel
detailing the lives of a closely-knit family on the island of Willow Springs, we
can see God through the eyes of Mama Day, one of the main characters. Mama Day,
whose real name is Miranda, views God as a passive deity. She does not feel that
God intervenes with humans as punishment or rewards humans for things that they
do. This conviction is clear in the story when a hurricane is coming and
Miranda’s sister, Abigail, feels that she has done something to make God send a
hurricane. To this Miranda responds, Abigail, stop your foolishness. All God got
in mind is to send you a hurricane? It ain’t got nothing to do with us, we just
bystanders on this earth. Sometimes I think we was only a second thought-and a
poor second thought at that (228). Even though Miranda and Abigail are sisters
and were probably raised similarly, they view God in two very different ways.

While Miranda’s philosophy on God’s lack of intervention holds strong, she does
believe God to be all-powerful. This is evident when she states, “The past
was gone, just as gone as it could be. And only God could change the
future” (138). Although Miranda does not think that what people are doing
on Earth will affect what God does, she does believe that in the end God will
hold each person accountable for what he or she has done. This can be seen on
the Island of Willow Springs where Miranda’s thoughts are, “That’ll be her
defense at Judgement: Lord, I called out three times.” Miranda thinks this
after she knocks on Ruby’s house three times before setting her house up to get
struck by lightning. This is a prime example of her theology. By preparing the
house for lightning, she is controlling where the lightning goes, a feat that
some people, such as her sister, would attribute to God. Had Augustine, the
author of Confessions, been there he would have likely believed that God caused
the lightening. Augustine, in contrast to Miranda, believed that God had a
purpose in mind for everything that happens on Earth. This is apparent when
Augustine proclaims, “It was, then by your guidance that I was persuaded to
go to Rome and teach there the subjects which I taught at Carthage” (Book
V, Chapter 8). Augustine goes on to state his belief that God has sent him to
Rome to convert him to Christianity. This is indicative of Augustine’s belief
that everything that happens on Earth is God’s will. This is directly
contradictory to Miranda’s view that is that God does not intervene with people
while they are still on Earth. Augustine also depicts God as being merciful.

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This is clear when he refers to God as “God of mercy” (Book V, Chapter
9) and again when he proclaims, “God, let me acknowledge your mercy from
the deepest depths of my soul” (Book VII, Chapter 6). Augustine sees God as
having a purpose for everyone on Earth and as being merciful to all. He even
states, And yet Lord, even if you had willed that I should not survive my
childhood, I should have owed you gratitude, because you are our God, the
supreme Good, the Creator and Ruler of the universe (I 20). Augustine views God
as the “supreme Good,” the god that is merciful to all and helps
humanity while they are still on Earth. The picture we get of God from the
Hebrew Bible is much different from Augustine’s depiction of God. While Exodus
still portrays God as intervening in the Hebrews’ lives there are questions that
may be asked about God’s mercy. In Exodus 7-12:42, God sends a set of plagues to
the land of Egypt where the Hebrews, His people, are being held as slaves.

Augustine would agree that this is one of His generous acts, as He is using
these plagues to free His people. Augustine, however, may not acknowledge the
suffering of the Egyptians. The plagues were directed towards these Egyptians
and their pharaoh in an attempt to free the Hebrews. The tenth and most well
known of these plagues was the killing of the firstborn of Egypt-the plague that
has given us the holiday of the Passover. God’s omnipotence is definitely shown
when the firstborn children of Egypt fall, but those of the faithful Israelites
do not. Exodus 12:27 reads, “It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for
he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the
Egyptians but spared or houses.” It is true that the Israelites have been
glorified by this action of God, but what of the Egyptians? In this, a factor of
God’s personality has been shown that does not quite match that of Augustine.

God is vengeful and jealous. He resorts to killing the firstborn of Egypt, some
of them innocent and just, simply to help free His people. One may ask the
question, was it necessary? If God can move mountains and have the compassion
and mercy that St. Augustine has given Him, was there not a better way of
getting the Israelites out of Egypt? Terence E. Fretheim, author of Exodus
Interpretation points out that, “even with the joy associated with newfound
freedom, Israel, like its God, voices no pleasure in the deaths of these
persons” (Fretheim 140). This is true according to Exodus 12:29-36. neither
the Israelites nor their God rejoice at the deaths of the Egyptians. It is also
pointed out that, “it is appropriate to speak of judgment, and Pharaoh’s
genocidal decision to kill all Hebrew baby boys” (Fretheim 140). When
viewing the Passover with this perspective, it is hard to see God as anything
but just to some extent when, in fact, God is “taking an eye for an
eye.” In reading the previous selections from Fretheim one can see that the
author’s view of God is that He is just and does only what is called for in the
way of punishment. Umberto Caussuto, author of A Commentary on the Book of
Exodus, does not try to explain why God killed the firstborn of every Egyptian
household. In refraining from such an analysis, one may infer that Caussuto
believes that God is great enough not to be questioned on the matter of what he
does. Caussuto seems more concerned with the idea of Pharaoh being completely
humble. “and Pharaoh rose up in the night-the proud king is forced to rise
from his bed at night (an unroyal procedure)” (Caussuto 145). Caussuto goes
on to say that the pharaoh spoke “tersely and jerkily, in words [in the
Hebrew} of one or two syllables only” (145). Caussuto therefore views God
as being so sophisticated in his thoughts and actions that He is unquestionable.

In these two interpretations of Exodus, and my own in the previous paragraph, it
has been shown that as few as three people reading the same piece of literature
interpret the literature very differently, especially when the literature deals
with theology. If all of these opinions of Gods’ actions and purposes are
different, then it is no wonder that God himself is viewed differently by many
people. I view God as being incomprehensible to anyone, no matter what his or
her IQ or knowledge of anything is. I believe God is omnipotent and omniscient.

While I cannot imagine God doing anything wrong, I often find myself questioning
God. I agree more with Miranda than I do with Augustine in that people get what
they deserve on Judgement Day-not on Earth. If I believed as Augustine does I
would have to come up with the reason God has for allowing pedophile. I believe
that while God could stop anything that happens on Earth he chooses not to
because He wants to see what will happen naturally. Augustine Confessions.

R.S. Pine-Coffin, New York: Penguin Classics, 1967. Cassuto, U., A Commentary
on the Book of Exodus. Translated by Israel Abrahams, Jerusalem: The Magnes
Press, 1967. Fretheim, Terence, Interpretation Exodus. Lousiville: John Knox
Press, 1992. Naylor, Gloria. Mama Day. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1993.


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